Spotlight Status:
THE Long Term Stay Marketing Strategy

strategy = not a toolkit

To be clear, this isn’t a quick fix toolkit.  While I’m all for toolkits it’s important to note for the most part they are tactics, not strategies

In the current state of pet welfare and what’s about to come in the near future, we are way beyond the tactical, going viral – wishful thinking social media posting that isn’t working and need to start implementing long term strategies to minimize long term stays.

With that said… let’s get started!


What exactly does long term mean? 

It is a trigger date? Is it 2 weeks… or 5 months?

Is it just length of time OR are we also considering “harder to adopt” pets?  Is that an anticipated stay based on breed/behavior/medical conditions? 

If yes to the above, what exactly are those visual breeds/behaviors/conditions?  Any dog 45+ lbs or with a squarish head?  Literally any cat over 10 weeks old?

Quick Takeaway: It’s actually impossible to create a solution if you have no idea what problem you are solving…


I like to refer to LTS pets as “Spotlight Status” pets.  This means they have hit the Long Term Stay trigger and the Spotlight Action Plan goes into affect, with step 1 being notification of status.

Spotlight Status Notifications:

  • Internal Team Update
  • Social Media Supporters Update
  • Email Marketing Update


Quick Takeaway: Nobody is gonna know a pet in your care has been there longer than average if you fail to clearly communicate just that.


Notify your team that (list of pets) have triggered the SpotLight Status.  Make it SUPER simple for them to share media of that pet with you.  QR Codes and Quick Links are an easy and highly accessible way to get media from desktop and phones.

I recommend these are hung around the facility and also to have individualized content on each pets kennel for further encouragement and moment sharing.

Quick Takeaway: Teams usually do whatever is asked of them if it is simple enough.


If you’re able, taking it a step further is creating Spotlight Pals who willingly commit to 1-3 pets by:

  • Capturing photos/videos for social media
  • Adding creative bios to website profiles
  • Responding to questions about their behaviors/needs on each social media post or
  • Managing Texts from potential adopters to discuss behaviors/needs/hand holding things (I also recommend having a text line through Google Voice that Spotlight Pals can text through supervised as needed to respond to messages about their pet).


While it can be purely media focused, I have also created “Spotlight Facility Foster” programs for rescues/shelters primarily for LTS pets.  These are volunteers who commit to the above PLUS… 

  • Interacting with potential adopters at events/open hours 
  • Focused socialization to allow for quicker progress with behavioral needs/manners
  • Daytrips & Sleepovers (very short term out of the facility perks)


It’s all the fun foster-connective without the commitment of in-home caring.  When these volunteers are commenting on social media identifying themselves as DOG’s Spotlight Promoter or Spotlight Facility Foster, it’s an AWESOME covert recruiting tactic 🙂

Quick Takeaway: So much opportunity comes from solving a problem.


Every month, you need to notify your digital audiences which pets are in Spotlight Status.  You need to explain what this means and ask for their help in searching for adopters/fosters for these pets.

Every single post going forward should reference the word SPOTLIGHT so your audience knows that pet is a LTS pet without making it so discouraging or red-flagish.

Every single post about your spotlight pets needs to be relatable, funny, engaging and straight up ASKING for people to tag friends and share those pets with people who would love them.

Quick Takeaway: Your online supporters want to help in ways that are realistic and feasible to them – but you need to explain it to them in a way they feel included and invested in the pets you are asking them to care about.


This part is critical.  You need to fight every instinct to write bios or defining characteristics that IN ANY WAY turn people away.  Bullet points, YES lists and things that will INSTANTLY CONNECT people with the dog, not the other way around.  Everything else is One. On. One.

This should be much simpler now if you are able to implement the Spotlight Promoters and Spotlight Facility Foster programs to offer this one-on-one time to potential adopters you are really asking a lot of and who deserve that time value from your organization.

Quick Takeaway: It’s impossible to create connections with potential adopters if they have no content to connect with.


As soon as a potential adopter in your facility says they want to meet available pets, you’ll comment back with “Of Course – Might I Offer You the Spotlights First?” 

Think of these as the “Specials” at a restaurant – even the pickiest of eaters will listen to the waitress rattle off the specials jusssstttt in case something sounds interesting.  At this point, you go ahead and hand them this Month’s Spotlight promotion and as they look at the photos, you can quickly assess their family dynamic and talk to them about the ones who would be a best fit for them.

They might be interested or they might not BUT – at least you can say you talked to every single adopter about them.  When walking around the facility, kennel cards should also notate a Spotlight Pet.  Maybe the adopter half heard what you were saying in your Spotlight speech but they see a SPOTLIGHT PET and go, wait, is that a pet she was talking about, let me take a closer look!  At this point you have now promoted a LTS pet TWICE to the same adopter.

Maybe those adopters aren’t ready (today) to bring home a pet – time to let them leave with the Spotlight Menu!  As they walk out, let them know you hope to see them again and hand them the QR Code Spotlight Pets Flyer! 

Quick Takeaway: If you want pets in homes – BE CONSISTENT (and shameless) ABOUT SAYING IT!


Again, I am a huge advocate of creative QR Code placement to make information about Spotlight Pets super accessible and simple to use. 

I recommend adding QR Codes all over the facility, on every marketing piece you print, on every email you send (PUT THOSE PETS IN YOUR SIGNATURES) and I’ve even been known to recommend throwing some QR code business cards with LTS pets on them on random shelves in high traffic people places like food/clothing stores (#sorrynotsorry).

Make it fun – challenge your team to put a LTS Pet in random places and have them share where the pets have travelled:  Gyms, pet stores, coffee shops, libraries, Italian restaurants, community centers, PTA meetings, Halloween candy, your kids valentines, peoples mailboxes… I mean, you can see how amusing this can be right?

Quick Takeaway: You can literally put LTS pets and foster pets on EVERYTHING if you just give controlled permission and the simplified tools to make this possible!

THAT's a strategic wrap!

To repeat myself, this is a STRATEGY – not a tactic.  If implemented correctly, this entire process should be a proactive effort which minimized LTS pets to begin with.  This is a long game strategy part of a larger scale strategic marketing plan.  Gone are the days where one off tactics are going to be sufficient enough for pet welfare organizations… Think LONGER TERM STRATEGY to PREVENT LONG TERM STAY. Think TRANSFORMATIONAL vs TRANSACTIONAL.  You’ve got this!  And I’m here to help!  

Want help putting together your entire Long Term Stay Strategy?  Look around Sploot!, the Pet Welfare Marketing team for more feasible, simple resources to build your pet loving community using social media marketing and digital planning.

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